SciTech Roundup, April 19

Snakebot goes for a swim

Developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Biorobotics lab, the Hardened Underwater Modular Robot Snake (HUMRS) is a flexible robot whose purpose is to inspect ships and submarines for structural damage. With its streamlined and modular design, this robot boasts not only precise control and the ability to fit into small spaces, but it can also be modified for different scenarios — both aquatic and terrestrial. The robot snake is a collaborative project between Carnegie Mellon and the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, with a grant from ARM providing the funding. Beyond military applications, engineers say that the robot could be used to inspect and maintain fluid-filled systems, making it a beneficial tool in various industries.

Read more about it here.

CMU/Yale PNA-based technique an essential part of gene editing toolkit

Gene editing is a promising method of treatment for debilitating diseases, and continued research and development is bringing this technology closer to widespread use. By allowing scientists to directly modify sections of an organism’s DNA, gene editing could hold the key to curing genetic diseases that are otherwise untreatable. To help realize the potential of gene editing, the Somatic Cell Gene Editing Consortium (SCGE) was launched in 2018 to help accelerate discoveries in the field and to translate those breakthroughs into clinical applications. While much of the consortium’s work focuses on CRISPR-Cas systems, the SCGE stated in the April 8 issue of Nature that it is interested in fostering the development of other methods, such as the peptide nucleic acid-based gene editing technique developed by Professor Danith Ly of Carnegie Mellon University and Professor Peter Glazer of Yale University.

Read more about it here.

Vaccine hesitancy remains unchanged

With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines from companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson, many believe the pandemic is coming to an end. However, having the vaccines is only half the battle, as infrastructure and public willingness are key to vaccinating the large swaths of the population required to reach herd immunity. In a survey study conducted by the Delphi Research Group at Carnegie Mellon University in partnership with Facebook, researchers found vaccine hesitancy persists due to concerns about side effects, especially among females, Black adults, and those with pre-existing health conditions. While 77 percent of surveyed adults are willing to get vaccinated, 23 percent remain reluctant, and overcoming this hurdle is vital for overcoming this pandemic.

Read more about it here.